Can we thrive on the dark side of the moon?

We know there will be normal on the other side of the lockdown and recession, but what is it and how will it be different?

In seven weeks of lockdown, we have experienced seven years of process alternations and digital adaptations. If COVID19 had not emerged we would not have undertaken such digitization changes in such a time frame.  This pandemic has only just begun given the history of HIV which has just had its 40th birthday and SARS at 15, both complex viruses neither have vaccines.  We lack data right now and most of our actions are based on human hope and wishful thinking for better outcomes than the worst-case scenario.

A new landscape

It almost feels like we have been living on the lite side of the moon, seeing and understanding the layout of the land, its structure, our infrastructure and our connections.  The global pandemic has forced us to move to the other side of the moon, the side with no sunlight and we cannot see what is already there.  We find ourselves having to find ways to illuminate what is there so that we can build again. As such we are not creating a new normal but we are discovering what already exists.

we are not creating a new normal but we are discovering what already exists

Our “new normal” landscape is already here, it is just that we have been compelled to go there, however (un)comfortable the known ”normal” we lived in was becoming. Today we are in the midst of an evolutionary point that has started well before the current crisis brought the immediacy to it. The global lockdown and near shutdown of the economies worldwide bringing us to a new requirement. How we choose to emerge is being laid down by our collective biases, power, the baggage we carry forward within the prevailing thinking, commercial references and the language we applied to the market we had. 

The dollar signs of our individualist, consumer-driven economy were shining so bright that everything else paled in the shade, we had ended up with an unintended consequence of a market-driven by profit at any cost. 

The isolation created by COVID19 has forced us to stop and question the models and this can allow us to move to a sustainable place where we can thrive and prosper; living out meaningful and useful lives.

Here is a fact we need to face, the economic depression/recession we are experiencing is caused by us being able to buy only what we essentially need.  The consequence of us purchasing only what we need does not enable everyone to participate in the economy or be valued. Our economy depends on activities that are not essential to life like travel, holiday, luxury, entertainment, pleasure, sport and much more.

This economic depression/recession is different as it is caused by us only being able to buy what we really need for living.

The post-COVID19 economy we create should be more resilient than the old one. Beyond exposing the brittle nature of global supply chains, top-down monetary policy, and a vanquished domestic manufacturing sector, the COVID19 crisis is also unleashing a powerful drive by local and networked communities to rebuild the business from the bottom-up. In the market and system, we just left, the outcomes justified the means and that created its own behaviour. If we are to create sustainable prosperity and not be driven by profit at any cost, we have to have understood what profit with purpose means, and how to distribute profit to the ecosystem within a framework of trust and transparency.

Is digital more global or more local?

Our digital strategies have hitherto been based on being global in scale and personal at the point of implementation. As this “Global Village” cascades and tumbles towards its re-invention is there a power shift to local?  Are we seeing the emergence of a “Local Loop” digital strategy? 

We are seeing that the brittle yet highly efficient and effective economics-driven global supply chain which was a strength, has become a weakness.  Whilst efficient because it could ignore the cost to the earth and humanity, it was enormously wasteful of unaccounted for resources.  The more, faster, and cheaper strategic driver had created dependencies that worked, but only whilst the parties in the supply chain were able to deliver.   Our capability to deliver was an assumption that we did not challenge until COVID19.

Delivery just-in-time was an assumption that we did not challenge until COVID19

As the market demands a move to more flexibility, resilience, and regeneration local becomes a viable option as the new first.  In this context, we use “Local Loop” to mean where the source and use are elements in a locally grounded system.  We know that local thinking changes the economics and this will affect pricing, which shifts demand curves, but we know that the “at any cost model” resulted in fragility, which became our nemesis with the lockdowns. Are we able and prepared now to shift from the global supply chain thinking (start and end control) towards circular and regenerative models where the end becomes a new beginning. Local Loop will mirror how nature builds ecology, allowing complex interlocking local regenerative systems to thrive.  

Policy and Priorities

Local Loop thinking will have a different impact depending on industry, country and context. In reality local, as a concept, is not new as a strategic option however until now, it has lacked the model to compete at scale with global.  

At WEF/ DAVOS 2020 there were wide-ranging discussions led by the largest funds, such as Blackrock, who were proposing we move to ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) based reporting alongside fiscal reporting to enable better judgment and decision making.  A key impact of an ESG reporting requirement is to highlight the unintended consequences of the global model we have (had).  Awareness of proposed changes to a more balanced decision-making tool has been accelerated by the current global situation. 

It is our belief that senior organisational leadership and boards who must be tasked with the long-term development, under the stewardship of the chairperson, need to refine the board’s agenda and priorities.  Our strategic intent needs to take account of these newly emerging trends.  This means that the board should request more data and invest time to understand and reflect on the firm’s value, business model and performance creates resilience for local mindset and not just a global one. Further, we need more data, new analysis and better decision making to balance the organization’s impact to determine the long-range effects on the wellness of the team, customers, and society. 

Three questions to enable us to start such a re-assessment, are: 

  • Is this working for us? This being our global strategy.

  • Who is us? How far deep and wide are we considering the impact of our decisions.

  • Of whom are we asking the question?  Are we responsible and accountable for our decisions and by what mechanism? 

However, we first have to rebalance our race, gender and thinking in the boardroom to close the gaps in the skills and perspectives we have access to, to enable us to deliver something new and not just wish for a return to the old. Our conformational bias is expressed in how we collectively question as a board “How do we impact the wellbeing of our ecosystem, its sustainability and where is the impact”